Al-Qa'ida kills 107 soldiers at Yemeni army base

Al-Qa'ida militants have launched a surprise attack against an army base in southern Yemen, killing 107 soldiers, seizing weapons and parading 55 troops they had taken captive through the centre of a town under their control, military officials said.

The battle in Abyan province shows how militants have taken advantage of the political turmoil created by the year-long uprising against Ali Abdullah Saleh, who handed over power to a successor last month.

The scale of Sunday's attack points to the combat-readiness of the militants as they launch more and more attacks in a region that the US considers a key battleground in the war on al-Qa'ida.

Military officials in Yemen said 32 militants also died in the fighting and scores were wounded on both sides. Medical officials confirmed the latest death toll.

The captives were paraded late on Sunday through the streets of Jaar, a nearby town that has been under al-Qa'ida's control for nearly a year. Militants seized control of Zinjibar in May and Jaar the previous month as security officials were focused on the rebellion against Mr Saleh.

A Defence Ministry statement said the fighting began when militants detonated "booby-trapped vehicles" at an army base in the region of Koud near Zinjibar. The wording of the statement suggested that the base had been occupied by the militants before army forces regrouped and took it back. The fighting lasted the whole day, stopping only by sunset.